German artist Katja Ehrhardt began designing her suberb fetish fashions by chance, and her independent nature and versatile creativity led her to start shooting fashion photography in an equally fateful way. Now she's one of the top latex designers in Germany, but her visionary photography of her own fashions has also landed her as one of the top fetish photographers. We spoke with Katja about her one-woman fetish fashion empire.
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Sez G: How did you become interested in fashion design? Where did you learn it?
Katja Ehrhardt: I "accidently" became a fashion designer on my way to study literature. My ex-boyfriend is a fetish/latex designer, and I spent a lot of time in his studio. I began to help him here and there, and soon I was working for him full time. After a few years, in 2000, I started my own little collection.
Sez G: Do you design only in latex? What are some of the tricks to working with this material?
Katja Ehrhardt: Latex is the only material I design with professionally. Of course, if you are a creative person, you do a lot of stuff, so sometimes I create hats and shoes or fabric outfits. The fun of working with latex is that you have to glue it instead of sewing.
Sez G: Do you design clothing with particular models in mind?
Katja Ehrhardt: Not one person in particular, but surely a certain kind of figure. For me there are three major things a latex-model must have: long legs, a nice waist and "crispy" boobs... big or small is not important for me.
Sez G: So, when did you start shooting your own fashion photography?
Katja Ehrhardt: Just one year ago. I was tired of asking friends to shoot my new stuff or wait for an upcoming shoot, then take everything with me somewhere to get some photos. I just can't work that way and keep my online shop running, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I never expected to get anything more than acceptable product photos, but I noticed that I really liked to create my own latex world and fetish looks. I kept on shooting and getting better and better -- I hope!
Sez G: We think it's great! Do you shoot all your own clothes now, or do you still use other photographers as well?
Katja Ehrhardt: I do everything I need and want myself so I can create one look for all my sites, which is what I love. I still work with others, sometimes styling for them or lending my collections to stylists and photographers. I love to see what other people do with my outfits; everybody has a different style.
Sez G: Do you have a particular vision in your head for a shoot before going into it? I ask because your photos perfectly accentuate the intricacies of your fashion design.
Katja Ehrhardt: Hm, hard to say. Not really. Sometimes I have an idea about the photo, but most of the time I just start shooting and feel out what I want.
Not everything is possible with every model. I would say it's about 50/50. I think of a base concept and the styling before shooting, but the rest just falls into place. Another part of the photo is created in Photoshop too!
Sez G: What's a typical photo shoot like for you? Do you have a stylist on set?
Katja Ehrhardt: Typical shooting is very relaxed and familiar, I think. I am a simple person and don't need a big show. We have breakfast together, talk, do make-up and a fitting, see what looks nice on the model and start with our selection.
Most of the time I have my assistant helping me with all the little things that come up during the day. The styling, as I mentioned already, is mostly done before we start, but that is just an idea I have. After the fitting I see what is possible and then new ideas start coming up, even from the model or my assistant. My last model brought some great boots with her, so surely I didn't plan on using them before I saw them, but we got a really great picture because of them [photo to right]
Sez G: You've been featured in several magazines and online. How involved are you in the fetish community?
Katja Ehrhardt: Good question, because I keep asking myself that too. Both answers feel true: not at all and very much. I often went to fetish parties a few years ago... I think there was not one I missed. But, like everything, you eventually have enough. Over the past few years, I haven't been to many parties... maybe one a year.
If you've ever been in London for a party, it is hard to enjoy a German party. For me there is still a great difference in outfits and relaxation. What I miss in the fetish scene is the feeling that you can just "be." I would love to go more often, but I know you have to dress up completely. Halfway will never do.
I love the Kitkat Club in Berlin, where I saw a girl in jeans and a bra dancing between the latex people. This is what I miss… most people and parties take the subject too seriously.
I am not really involved in the community. I know most of the people via email, and some I feel are friends even if we never meet.
Sez G: Is all of your work shot in a studio?
Katja Ehrhardt: 99% of it. I love going on location, but it is just so much work to bring all the outfits and shoes and make up and wigs and light and and and! In the studio is everything I need, which is a great advantage!
Sez G: When did you launch HighGlossDolls.com and why? How is it different from Fraeulein-Ehrhardt.de?
Katja Ehrhardt: I launched it in the end of December 2005, so it is quite new. Here we show just the photography, so you can say it is my personal photographer site. In the gallery of Fräulein-Ehrhardt.de, you see the work of other photographers and publications... and the shop is the shop.
Sez G: Speaking of the shop, is this the only place you sell your clothes? Do you make it all yourself?
Katja Ehrhardt: Yes, most of my outfits I sell directly over my online shop. I do have a few reseller shops as well. I make most of the outfits myself, but I also get help from my assistants.
Sez G: What's next for you?
Katja Ehrhardt: I'll work a lot for the HighGlossDolls site, of course, and maybe even create a member zone. New outfits and designs are always coming all the time and are waiting in the studio for the next model! Soon, I will offer posters in my shop. And, of course, we have some secret plans...
To learn more about Katja Ehrhardt, visit www.Fraeulein-Ehrhardt.de and HighGlossDolls.com. You can also find her fashions in the following locations:
Hamburg: Boutique Bizarre, Reeperbahn 35, 20357 Hamburg, +49(0)40 317 69 693
Duisburg: Emilia Grace, Wallstr. 11, 47051 Duisburg, +49 (0) 203 9353738
Leipzig: Hautnah, Nikolaistrasse 12-14, 04109 Leipzig, +49(0)341 9616824
Paris: L'Essentiel, 16, rue des tournelles, 75004 Paris, +33(0)142 776051
London: FairygothMother, East Yard Camden Lock, London N1W 8AL, +44 20 7485 0365
USA / Fort Lauderdale: Fetish Factory, 855 E. Oakland Park Blvd, Fort Lauderdale FL 33334, 954-563-5777
Katja Ehrhardt - by Sez G.